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Q & A with Dr. Robert Saltzman #4



I had coffee this morning, and really enjoyed it, but that coffee is gone, and I can never have it again. I can, it is true, have another coffee, but it won’t be the same coffee. Nothing is ever the same.

The “Robert” who enjoyed the morning coffee is also gone forever and can never come back again. The present “Robert” can have a coffee in the present, but that “Robert” is not the same person who had coffee for breakfast. That moment is gone forever.

This is utterly simple and totally obvious—hidden in plain sight. See it, and the work is done



Dear Dr. Robert,

“Do you believe that there is a “Robert” who can enjoy a cup of coffee tomorrow; and is there a cup of coffee to be had?

If yes, why?

If no, why not?”




Chelsea Market, NY, 2013

Chelsea Market, NY, 2013

Is there a cup of coffee to be had?



This really is not as complicated as your question implies.

The complexity derives from a desire to “create” something permanent in the face of obvious impermanence. The only way to do that is via fictitious beliefs which involve accepting doctrines espoused by others (who are human beings just like oneself), or by lying to oneself about ones direct experience. If one is honest and straightforward, and avoids giving credence to “experts,” the essence of this matter may be grasped immediately.

The “Robert” who is sitting here typing can PLAN to have coffee tomorrow. He can put the coffee and water into the electric appliance, set out the cup, and sit here imagining how the coffee will smell and taste. If he has the right appliance, he can even program it to brew the coffee at a certain hour. But all of that is in the present. Between now and the hour at which the coffee is programmed to be brewed, anything can happen, and those contingencies are entirely out of the control of any “Robert.”

For example, “Robert” can have a stroke and be rendered incapable of even thinking about coffee. A sinkhole can swallow both “Robert” and the entire house in which the coffee apparatus is located. Etc. Even if none of those cataclysmic events were to occur, and the coffee were brewed perfectly, the “Robert” who drinks it will not be the same “Robert” who programmed the coffee maker.


If you observe your thoughts for even a few minutes, you will see that they change constantly, and that you have no idea whatsoever what you will be thinking next. So the impermanence of THOUGHT is obvious.


The body is changing constantly as well, and is also beyond conscious control (you are not making your heart beat, for example, and certainly cannot control the countless microorganisms without which that body would not continue for very long either), but because the body seems to change more SLOWLY than thought, from the point of view of thought, the body can SEEM to have a permanence which is actually totally illusory.

This attribution of any permanence at all to “oneself” is the source of confusion implicit in the question, “Do you believe that there is a “Robert” who can enjoy a cup of coffee tomorrow?” Because conventionally this body is always called “Robert,” your question implies that there might actually be some kind of constant “Robert” which persists through time. This is false, and quite obviously so—hidden in plain sight.




Everything is ALWAYS changing.

Yes of course, throughout life, there will always be “this person,” who has coffee or whatever, but that happening conventionally called “this person” is never the same twice. That to which the name “myself” is attached, suggesting a kind of faux fixity, is always changing too just like any other object reflected in the mirror of awareness.

So “myself” is not nothing, but it’s not something either. “Myself” is “empty” of “thingness.” It is “no-thing.” (Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Samsara is nirvana.).

Because most of us are not familiar with the freedom and joy which ensue when impermanence is seen, understood, and embraced, we cling to faulty logic or try to believe in religious doctrines which seem to provide an escape from impermanence. But there IS no escape.

When faced with painful circumstances, we like to think and say, “This too shall pass.” All that is required for complete understanding is a willingness to think and say the same about pleasurable circumstances as well—indeed to say the same about ALL circumstances.

This understanding has nothing to do with logic, belief, religion, or philosophy, all of which fall short of embracing this reality. To me, this is obvious and completely apparent—not hidden at all—and requires no belief in anything.


robert-saltzmanDr. Robert Saltzman is a psychotherapist and [non-teacher] of non-duality who lives and works in Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico. In addition to his therapy practice, he takes questions about psychology, spirituality, and problems of living from questioners world-wide on his Facebook page.

This page is the ‘new’ home of the ask Dr. Robert website, a unique question and answer forum open to everyone worldwide, gratis. The forum is fairly active and has many forum regulars—many of whom bring intelligence, experience, and wisdom to these online conversations.

Robert checks in on the forum regularly and contributes when necessary.


4 responses

  1. Forgive me, but the question was the easiest part of this post: I found the answer convoluted and complicated; it did not satisfy (me) in addressing the question at hand.

    The answer to the question depends upon where you stand.

    If you are like the majority of the population on the planet you’ll stand in a reality that has a very conventional viewpoint; your answer to this question would be “yes, there is a Dr. Robert and there is a cup of coffee to be enjoyed and there’s probably going to be another cup to be had tomorrow”.

    For most people, conventional reality (the world as an “I” see’s it), suggests there is a person who enjoys – a cup of coffee or not, and, without any investigation to that world view, will continue to enjoying many more cups of coffee and perhaps even a few they may not.

    A very small percentage of the population – may dig a little deeper exploring the surface psychology: Who is this Dr. Robert who enjoyed the coffee? Why was it so enjoyable? What can he do to maintain, enhance and elevate the ability to enjoy this cup of coffee and prevent the suffering that may arise when he does not have a cup of coffee?

    This line of questioning while credible from the point of view of a person and separate self, leads us nowhere – it’s a seductive invitation into the trap of thought and thinking, where nothing can be found but metaphysical speculation and pseudo spiritual innuendo; it leads us into the trap of a separate self who can only imagine and see things like a cups of coffee, a person called Dr. Robert and things like detachment, attachment, change and even something called impermanence.

    The original question: “Do you believe that there is a “Robert” who can enjoy a cup of coffee tomorrow; and is there a cup of coffee to be had?” could also lead us in another different (direction).

    For the sake of brevity, I’d like you to consider for a moment there is another radical possibility; I’d like you to consider there is no Dr. Robert and there is no cup of coffee to be enjoyed or had. To explain: from the point of view of a separate self that see’s life in a very conventional way, there is a Dr. Robert and cup of coffee; there are objects, others and a world “out there” – things you are attached to or detached to; there’s a world out there that is full of something called change and impermanence.

    For Awareness – the ultimate reality and only real point of view, nobody – including Dr. Robert, has ever experienced a cup of coffee, change, detachment, attachment or impermanence. This can be confirmed immediately by checking (your) (own) experience:

    Where does Dr. Roberts and that cup of coffee really appear?

    Does it appear or happen “out there” or does it actually only happen (in here) – in (your) experience – as Awareness?

    For a separate self or thought, there is a person who is having the experience of drinking a cup of coffee; there is an apparent subject/object that is “having” an experience; there is someone who tastes, something to be tasted and the experience of tasting; there is a taster, a tasted and tasting.

    From the point of view of Awareness – there is only Awareness – modulating itself As tasting: the coffee appears As Awareness, the taste happens As Awareness and the experiencing happens As Awareness; (we) could say there is nothing happening but Awareness or to be more precise: there is only the light of pure Knowing.

    For a separate self that thinks/feels like they are the body/mind there is a Dr. Roberts and a cup of coffee to be tasted; for Awareness there is only Awareness; there is only appears to be something we label with language as taster, tasted & tasting, but that’s it – beyond language taster, tasted and tasting do not exist or they exist only at the level of thought/feeling. In actuality there’s only Awareness – the light of pure Knowing; it, everything, all apparently appear in, as, for and by Awareness.

    The separate self constantly refers, defers and depends upon thought, thinker and the fiction of a co-called thinker hence the drama of attachment, detachment, change and impermanence. When the referral, deferral and dependency upon thought, thinking and thinker end; when there is a realization where (we) begin to refer, defer and depend upon Awareness instead of thought, thinking and thinker, (we) see (we) can only find Awareness appearing for It-Self, by IT-Self, As IT-Self. (We) find that (we) already/always are Awareness and that there is nothing but Awareness or enlightenment as Awareness.

    Now, some might say “who gives a shit who’s drinking the coffee or if there is coffee” – of course it’s a valid comment if you happen to think you are a separate self. But along with that comment or attitude there comes this little thing we call suffering, and it’s a very BIG concern – for the separate self; especially when viewed from the standpoint of believing you are only a body/mine.

    Where attention rests As Awareness there is no longer unconscious referral, deferral or dependency of thought, thinking and so-called thinker – there’s just Awareness; there’s just the light of Pure Knowing. There appears to be a reorientation, and in that reorientation – where Awareness becomes Aware of the fact there is Awareness, issues of attachment, detachment, change and impermanence no longer hold the sting or stink they had; the move from the foreground of experiencing to the background of experiencing – the background of Awareness moves to the foreground of seeing.

    This is where life gets very juicy. This is where a realization unfolds that unchanging, untouchable, unmoved Awareness – is the real and only (you); ever-present as hearing, tasting, smelling, touching and seeing and it can be found over a hundred, hundred, hundred delicious cup of coffee or not.

    Anyone for a flat white?

    January 23, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    • Thank you Michael for your $0.02.

      I like| prefer this from you:


      Struggled, survived, surrendered. Dreamed, played, thrived…”


      *re : flat white – hopefully your not referring to Starbuck’s latest monstrosity? LOL

      January 25, 2015 at 4:23 am

  2. Dawn

    The “Robert” who; A non teacher, but a yes “Dr”….


    January 25, 2015 at 2:55 am

  3. Hi Dawn,

    I love the [ non teacher ] of “nonduality” slug in the bio.

    Way too many (self-realized) peeps get caught up in teaching game out there thesedays.

    Thx. For reading NDA & stopping by.

    Much Love …


    January 25, 2015 at 4:29 am

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